Although smoking is widely known as the main risk factor for developing lung cancer, it is now well-established that lung cancer risk is also affected by individual’s genetics. Several novel associations between human genes and lung cancer risk have recently been discovered in a new study published in Nature Genetics. The findings offer greater insights into other key factors influencing lung cancer risk.
The study was co-led by Dr. Rayjean Hung, Investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, and many researchers from around the globe. In more than 85,000 participants involved in the studies, 18 new susceptibility genes were discovered, including 10 genes that have been discovered for the first time. These new genes are thought to influence lung cancer risk through various pathways such as nicotine addiction, inflammation and the regulation of telomeres—a part of everyone’s chromosomes that is known to play an important role in human health.
Knowledge of these genes could have important impacts for cancer screening and management. “Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates, often due to late detection, so as a researcher what I find most exciting is how these findings can lead to new ideas of how lung cancer develops and how it can be applied,” says Dr. Hung. “Future applications could involve the development of new integrated models to improve low-dose CT screening efficiency and support earlier detection of lung cancer.”